AHI's David Frisk speaks at the Annual Summer Conference
At the AHI, Frisk completed an essay on the Nixon presidency which he will contribute to a book on American statesmanship co-edited by AHI Senior Fellow Joe Fornieri,, who teaches at the Rochester Institute of Technology and Kenneth Deutsch, who teaches at the State University of New York at Geneseo. The essay focuses on foreign policy, the hallmark of Nixon’s presidency before Watergate. One way in which Nixon stood out from modern Republican presidents, Frisk says, was that “he had a tremendous intellectual appetite,” making him immune to the popular caricatures of conservative presidents as unintelligent. “The depth of his intellect was undebatable,” Frisk says, “even if his principles are in doubt.”
Throughout August Frisk met with AHI summer interns and held various discussion sessions. He is planning a year-long reading group for Hamilton College students on the work of Leo Strauss. Students were appreciative of his spring semester reading group on Edmund Burke. “Often at Hamilton I find myself very limited in the kind of literature I’m exposed to as a student,” says Joe Simonson, an AHI Undergraduate Fellow. “However, with Dr. Frisk’s reading group on Burke, I was able to read and learn about an incredibly influential and brilliant thinker.”
Recently, Frisk has been preparing to teach the AHI’s fall course on statesmanship, which is free and open to the public. He defines statesmanship as a combination of farsightedness, strong principles, and the willingness to take unpopular positions for the good of the country. The statesman, in contrast to the ordinary politician, becomes a symbol of the country and its ideals. Teaching a class like this, Frisk says, “allows you to bring together your knowledge of political philosophy and your knowledge of actual politics.” The course will run 14 weeks, meeting for two hours each week, and will cover a different personality in each session. Frisk enjoys teaching courses that are open to the community because, as he explains, “everyone’s there because they want to be there.”
“David Frisk has pitched in to help advance the mission of the AHI with enthusiasm and considerable intelligence from the get-go,” observed AHI Charter Fellow Robert Paquette. “AHI undergraduate fellows have benefited from his journalistic judgment as well as his erudition in history and political science. He criticizes their prose, offers political advice, and delves with them into great books. His reading cluster on Leo Strauss will draw adults as well as students. No question: He is a considerable asset to the AHI.”
In 2008, the AHI inaugurated the Bakwin Award, a summer fellowship, to advance research in regional archives and libraries on subjects that comport with the central concerns of the AHI as defined in its charter. The fellowship honors E. M. (Pete) Bakwin, a stalwart supporter of the AHI since its inception. Mr. Bakwin, a graduated of Hamilton College (1950) and the University of Chicago (1961), served as Chairman of the Board of MB Financial Bank in Chicago. A long-standing student of Western culture, his generosity has touched Hamilton College, the University of Chicago, Shimer College, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and many other institutions. The Bakwin fellowship provides a stipend of $1600 and residence free-of-charge at the AHI’s headquarters in Clinton, NY.